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>Four Eyes

November 4, 2010

>I resemble my mother in so many ways. I didn’t get the cheekbones, much to my dismay, but I got her backside. And her feet. Her hands. Long waist. Short legs.

I also got her eyes. The color – not quite blue, not quite green.

And we can’t see worth beans.

The official diagnosis is called Myopic Degeneration – progressively nearsighted, starting at a very early age.

Most kids are born nearsighted, then become farsighted as toddlers. This gradually decreases until the “normal” sight is achieved around the age of five or so.

I was nearsighted by the age of four. She picked out glasses for me – they were light brown and huge, the lenses tinted pink. Tres chic for 1977. Just like her, I started school in glasses. It was still a rarity then – today every elementary grade has at least one child in glasses – back then I was an only.

She remembered going through it in her black 1950’s horn-rims (hers had rhinestones at the corners). She hated that I had to go through it, too.

Against common sense and all advice, they put me in contact lenses in 2nd grade. Second grade! Scooby’s age! They entrusted me with hundreds of dollars in two tiny plastic discs. Which, I might add, I lost at least three of the first year.

One fell out when I was playing on the parallel bars. I was quite the bar-queen – rings, uneven parallel – I landed on my back, had the wind and a contact lens knocked right out. Scared me to death on both counts – one made me feel I was dying, the other made me afraid I would be when I got home.

I think that was the third one I lost that year.

Another time I remember crawling around the shag carpet of the dining room, looking for a dropped lens.

Sitting at the kitchen table trying to get up the nerve to stick it in my eye. If you’ve never worn rigid lenses, you aren’t missing anything. Soft hadn’t been invented yet, and rigid feels just like you are putting a piece of hard plastic in your eye. And leaving it there.

You’re supposed to start out by wearing them an hour or so a day. And then two hours the next day. Gradually working your way up to all day while your eyes acclimate to what feels like a pointed stick under your eyelid, flopping around every time you blink. Dripping in tears, I mean, your eyes are trying to flush out the foreign body the entire time.

After about a week of this hell your eyes give up the fight and you stop feeling them anymore. Until you get a cat hair or a piece of dust under your lens. Then it’s the pointy stick all over again.

Oh, all we suffer in the name of beauty – from the third grade on, my school pictures just show feathered hair and blue-green eyes. No glasses.

She did that for me.

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